Traditional television ratings don’t matter — as much — if the NFL continues to expand its reach in other ways. That’s what makes YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s comment about YouTube’s interest in streaming NFL games a good thing for the most popular sports in the United States.
Wojcicki said that YouTube would, “love to stream the NFL.” That’s exactly what NFL ownership and Roger Goodell want to hear. YouTube is a way to reach demographics that have proven difficult to get in front of with traditional television. YouTube TV and its other streaming products are a pathway to get in front of younger consumers as well as older, tech-savvy cord cutters.
There’s still a portion of the media that likes to portray the NFL in dire straits. It’s simply not. It’s still the most popular game in America. It still garners the highest ratings on linear television. It just landed a $3 billion dollar rights deal with Fox for Thursday Night Football. Now YouTube is reaffirming its interest in partnering with the NFL on streaming.
There’s a good shot YouTube will get its chance in the coming years. The NFL has rotated its streaming offers between Yahoo!, Twitter, and Amazon. Apple, Facebook, and YouTube — read Google or Alphabet — are next. It’s a smart play by NFL leadership to let each company test out the NFL product and see how they can monetize the game. It also allows the NFL to test out streaming partners. Once the NFL decides to go more heavily into streaming, these test runs allow the league to make an educated choice. Money may not be the final deciding factor. The NFL will choose the company it feels most comfortable with to make sure the product is delivered correctly. YouTube will be involved in any bid for streaming rights, as will previous partners.
YouTube has one of the larger streaming audiences. It’s not behind a paywall. YouTube would have to build something to create an auto-purchase like Amazon can — since Amazon holds inventory and is an online retailer — but currently YouTube holds benefits Amazon doesn’t. The sheer size of the audience is enormous. It’s global — although still blocked by some countries — and has massive reach and demographic penetration.
Partnering with YouTube will allow the league to target its all-important young millennial and Generation Z demographics. YouTube’s comments also allow the NFL to drive up the price on streaming rights. It’s simple economics. There will be multiple bidders and only one product. It’s the same way the NFL pitted its television partners against each other.
So let’s not have the funeral for the NFL just yet. Its business prospects seem to be doing just fine.